A cadre of business owners, Metro Council members and supporters of the Smoke-free East Baton Rouge Coalition gathered at The Bulldog this morning to celebrate that, effective today, smoking is now banned at bars and casinos across Baton Rouge.
The city joins 14 other municipalities across the state that have enacted similar bans. The move was touted by proponents as a win for employees within the hospitality industry as well as musicians.
“We’re going to make that a habit. We’re going to walk around and breathe clean air,” says Henry Turner Jr., a local musician.
Remi DeMatteo, owner of The Bulldog, said sales at his Perkins Road bar have remained good—if not better—since going smoke-free three years ago. Also. employees have been healthier, he says, and have had fewer call-outs.
“You can have a smoke-free workplace and still be profitable,” DeMatteo says.
Smoking was already banned in most public gathering places across East Baton Rouge Parish, but the council—under heavy lobbying efforts from opponents and supporters—voted earlier this year to extend the prohibition to bars and casinos. The debate centered around the rights of private business versus the public health of non-smoking customers and employees.
Ashley Hebert, government relations director with the American Heart Association, says no one should be forced to choose between their health and a paycheck, adding, “It’s just that simple.”